Shweta Nimkar turned a hobby into a business. PAIO shoes, where uniquely designed shoes with customer driven customizations are available.
‘Shoes are a girl’s best friend’. ‘Shoes define a person’s character’.
All these and more such statements hold true for me and for most women. In this most important aspect of our wardrobe, the key attribute that we all want is ‘comfort’ – it can be a 4 inch heel but still has to comfortable. It’s very tough for someone to imagine that could be possible, but yes it is! And one person who is trying to make this and all other kinds of shoes comfortable, as also making a style statement is Shweta Nimkar.
Shweta Nimkar, a student of Advertising – Mass Media Student at Ruia College, University of Mumbai, realized her hobby when in college while doodling during lectures. She created hundreds of designs during those three years.
Taking this passion forward, she enrolled herself in the University of Southampton at the Winchester School of Art, UK as a student of Design: Fashion Management.
Over the course, this hobby turned passion for textiles, leather and shoes grew into post-it notes and ideas in her book for a project to pursue after her Masters. She took up an internship at the Ethical Fashion Forum in London to gain a better understanding of fashion businesses and its workings.
PAIO, the venture started by her stands as a result of her passion and arduous pursuit. “We design and craft quirky eccentric footwear for every woman!” is what her brand is all about.
This definitely makes us wonder whether eccentric footwear is something we are looking for. However there is an unexpected but pleasant twist to it. Who doesn’t like a part of your personality in your footwear? How many times you have searched for that right shoe for a designer outfit but either the style or the color is impossible to get?
“Apart from our collections, our USP lies in our ability to allow our customers to ‘design their own shoes’.” Now that’s a ‘WOW’ factor, right?
Customized shoes are not something that you see everywhere. Some years back I knew some of the mochis down the road who would do that for you but now its all about picking it up from a store. Choosing a good brand is the only thing we think of with the quality aspect being the the most important one we look at.
Shweta says, “When we launched PAIO we only had collections. We did not wish to get into customizing products for customers. However, since we started to get requests from friends and family, we began with a few custom orders.
When we received praise for our designs and comfort through word of mouth, we started to customize for a slightly larger audience. Our high point was when we crossed 600 custom orders for clients in a span of 6 months – all across the country from Delhi to Bangalore and Ahmedabad to Kolkata.”
“When I joined my first job, the first thing that was taught was that customer satisfaction is the most important thing, and getting the customer requirements right all the time is vital. In a job that requires hand work like shoes, this can get really hard. Craftsmen would much rather prefer to have one design made into a quantity of 500 rather than 500 different designs. However, over time, my craftsmen quite enjoy how creative they have to get with designs. If the designs get repetitive, they actually ask me for more complicated designs now!” says Shweta.
“One main challenge we face as co-founders is being motivated. You cannot switch off! Not that we want to,” she quips.
At PAIO they are all excited to move toward their next milestone. “Our current high point is our ‘to be launched’ website. This site is a super dynamic site that will allow our customers to ‘design’ their shoes online. They can select and play around with the style, accessories, materials, heel heights, and choose their size. With a click of a few buttons, our clients will soon be able to order a pair of super classy custom shoes while sitting at home!”
“There are always learnings when you start your own business. You have to know everything, and take care of everything. You need to be the person who provides solutions to all problems, always. Sometimes you fail, you learn and do your best to never repeat them!” This succinctly sums up what an entrepreneur is for their business, the ‘know it all and be it all’.
“We begin work at 9 AM and only wrap up when we are done with work for the day. Which in most cases, is when we get a call ordering us to come back home,” says Shweta. With such a busy work life what keeps her going is that she knows when to take a break. She would just pack her bags and go off with her friends on hiking trips, or just travel to see new places. I suppose that’s the best way to recharge batteries.
Shweta Nimkar has started from scratch setting up her store and creating a customer base, and providing a new way of shopping for shoes. She now would like to aim higher by saying, “The final goal is to have a PAIO shoe store in all prominent malls all across India, each one focusing on mass customization. Here our clients can visit the store, understand our brand, see the designs, craftsmanship, select their material, and place an order for a shoe as unique as them!”
This would definitely be something to look out for, and would be a blessing in disguise for all the women who know what they want. And now they would know where to pick it up from too!
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Images source: Shweta Nimkar